LFF 2019 Day 4 – House of Hummingbird | Made in Bangladesh | Jojo Rabbit

Another international day as I toured Seoul in 1994, modern-day Bangladesh, and Germany in 1945. Turns out life is universally hard everywhere all the time.

House of Hummingbird

While Our Ladies go on a raucous day trip to Edinburgh in Seoul a teenage girl named Eunhee (Park Ji-hu) is having a very different childhood. In a cramped apartment she lives with a sister who brings her boyfriend back to their shared bedroom, a brother who beats her regularly, and parents who fight and make-up on a repeated cycle.

Over 140 minutes we live with Eunhee as she navigates the roller-coaster of adolescence. We watch as friends and romance drift in and out of her life, health scares rise and fall, and her family dynamics border on unbearable. We see the occasional flares of hope as Eunhee makes meaningful human connections, and share in her despair when loved ones let her down. Throughout it all Eunhee remains as a constant, unable to do anything but weather the storm.

This is Kim Bora’s debut film as director and she has made an intimate epic. Over the landscape of a few months in on child’s life her film explores so much. The film is long but somehow could have been half or twice the length. Like life House of Hummingbird doesn’t have a neat, finite plot. Instead it comes with the sense that Eunhee exists outside the parameters of the film and we are only glimpsing a part of her story.

A tender story that shows us a rich picture of South Korea with no filters. The running time might test the patience of some but I could have gone for another round.

Made in Bangladesh

Shimu (Rikita Shimu) is a machinist at a clothing factory in Bangladesh. She works all day, and occasionally all night, to pay the rent and support her unemployed husband. In a given day she will touch thousands of garments and earn less in a month than those basic t-shirts will sell for.

Following a fatal incident at the factory Shimu finds herself as the unlikely leader of a unionising movement in her factory. As Shimu tries to gather evidence and rally support to create a union she clashes with her exploitative employers, nervous friends, and her husband who would rather she kept a lower profile. The fight for basic worker’s rights is often a literal one.

Far from the English films that share this synopsis Made in Bangladesh is light on comic relief and moments of rousing triumph. Shimu’s journey is not easy; it is filled with slow administration, conflict with real consequences, and no promise of a happy ending. As a result it isn’t particularly enjoyable to watch. A pathetic thing to say given to subject matter but there we go.

Made in Bangladesh should be eye-opening to any Westerner with little interest in the providence of their wardrobe. The film feels authentic but also a little inert and lacks a real climax.

Jojo Rabbit

What draws attention when it comes to Jojo Rabbit is the striking visual of writer-director Taika Waititi playing Hitler while trying to make us laugh. Thankfully there is more to Jojo Rabbit than meets the eye, and a lot less Hitler than you might expect. That said, every time a swastika appeared onscreen various parts of me clenched up.

Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis) lives in Germany with his devoted mother (Scarlett Johansson) during the final year of WWII. Jojo is a devoted member of Hitler Youth and is passionate, if ill-informed, about the Nazi cause. His mania for the Third Reich extends so far that his imaginary friend is a chirpy, encouraging version of Adolf Hitler himself. Jojo and Hitler’s relationship is put to the test when Jojo discovers that his mother is secretly hiding a young Jewish girl (Thomasin McKenzie) in their house.

Confronted with both his mother’s secret political leanings, and the reality of an actual human Jewish girl, Jojo starts to question the beliefs that define him.

And this is a comedy!

Waititi mines laughs through his silly portrayal of Hitler and the overall depiction of Nazi’s as bumbling oafs in a Wes Anderson-style version of Germany. Rebel Wilson, Sam Rockwell, and Alfie Allen play three slapstick Nazi officers while Johansson is left to bring heart and humanity to the film as the World’s Best Mum Ever™. Throughout the film the audience I was in roared with collective laughter as the horrors of Nazi Germany were undermined by witty lines, comic set pieces, and general gurning.

And then just when we were all relaxed and laughing at Hitler & co. Waititi would pull the rug out and make painfully clear the real horror that the Nazi war machine wrought. Jojo Rabbit is a laugh riot until you are hit in the gut. The gasps of surprise were just as audible as the guffaws.

Jojo Rabbit walks a fine line between satire and distaste but ultimately I think it lands on the right side. I was expecting to laugh, and I certainly did, but I wasn’t expecting to be moved too. Tentatively I’d called the film a success but I have to admit there’s a part of me wondering why they wanted to make it in the first place.

Second guessing yourself every time you laugh can be exhausting.

Seven Psychopaths – LFF Review

Colin Farrell plays Marty a screenwriter struggling with his latest screenplay. His best friend Billy (Sam Rockwell) runs a dog-napping with Hans (Christopher Walken) and wants to help Marty with his screenplay any way he can. Events take a turn for the worst when Billy kidnaps the dog of local mob boss Charlie (Woody Harrelson) and all manner of shooting ensues. Throw in a serial killer, quaker, and Tom Waits and you have Seven Psychopaths.

Martin McDonagh has moved on from In Bruges, a relatively small film with one location and three characters, as he now deals with a cast of dozens in a film that roams from inner-city to outer-desert and incorporates many intertwining stories both factual and fictional within the film’s universe. The result is a bombastic film constantly trying to simultaneously shock you and make you smile. Seven Psychopaths desperately wants you to think it is cool and won’t stop shooting people and swearing until you are rocking in your seat laughing and giving an approving clap.

On the surface I really enjoyed Seven Psycopaths. It was funny and contained enough fodder to stop me from becoming distracted. It felt unpredictable, fun, and… Well. Then I spoke to my friend Jon (the one with the beard, not the other one):

“I didn’t really enjoy Seven Psychopaths. I was hungry at the time and I don’t cope well with being hungry so I think that factor may have biased my experience somewhat. Seeing the Jeffrey Dahmer Files about a real psychopath hours before may have also not really put me in the mood.

Is it wrong to expect a film called Seven Psychopaths to have seven psychopaths in it instead of a bunch of characters with a penchant for being violent? Of the three main characters in the film, one is a typecast stereotype, one is contrary with their actions ultimately becoming in no way believable, and it turns out the other guy used to be interesting but is now just a thief. There are two or three interesting ideas in the film but I don’t feel like they’re really explored. Instead, they’re clumsily mashed together along with copious uses of terms such as ‘fag’, lots of throw away violence, cheap laughs, and attempts at being clever that just fall too short of the mark. It’s a dumb glossy action film with one-dimensional characters that ultimately lacks any heart or soul.

Go read The Psychopath Test, watch No Country for Old Men or In Bruges instead.”

Seven Psychopaths will reach UK cinemas on 5th December 2012 and you’ll most likely love it. Just don’t go thinking about the film afterwards.

Iron Man 2 – Review

As it’s a bank holiday all you’re getting is a long overdue review of Iron Man 2. For the short version: It’s not as bad as I had expected after reading other reviews. For the longer version:

Don Cheadle is the New Terrance Howard
Neither Cheadle nor Howard gave particularly stand out performance as Rhodey and the transition of actors was covered in Cheadle’s first bit of dialogue; “Look, it’s me, I’m here. Deal with it. Let’s move on.” The recasting was neither a big improvement or a major failure, just slightly pointless.

Scarlett Johansson is Very Pretty
Another big name that doesn’t make too much of an impact beyond making Gwyneth Paltrow look positively dowdy in comparison.

Sam Rockwell is Awesome
Rockwell continues to show just how versatile he is. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him give two similar performances and doubt I ever will… unless he plays the same character twice.

Robert Downey Jr. is Awesome, In a Different Way
Downey Jr. often seems to just be playing himself but in this way makes whatever character he’s playing seem incredibly real. There is something wonderfully naturalistic in the way he delivers dialogue.

It Was More Than a Set-Up for The Avengers
A lot of criticism portrays this film as building up for the big team up rather than being a film in it’s own right. While the Avengers are mentioned it is a minor point and I felt the film had a plot, of arguable quality, of its own.

The Film is Alright
No it isn’t as good as the first but this is the best cast of any super hero film so far and they didn’t cram in too many bad guys. The film was enjoyable and gave me what I expected, even if that was something a little unsatisfying.